Marwa Ebrahim (MSc International Management and Design Innovation 2018)

Job Title:

Founder of Atypical Cosmetics


International Management & Design Innovation


Atypical Cosmetics
Image: Courtesy of Atypical Costmetics

Atypical Cosmetics


Marwa Ebrahim

Interview originally produced for FLOW issue 22

What made you decide to study Product Design?
I was always fascinated with the process of developing new products. As customers, we are often presented with the final polished product but don’t get to see how that product came to be. During my time at GSA, I gained a better understanding of the iterative, collaborative and human-centered approach to designing products and services. These are the same principles that I am now using to develop my start-up, Atypical Cosmetics.

What were your first steps into the industry after graduating?
While studying Product Design, I became more and more interested in designing and launching my own products and services. After graduating, I did a masters in International Management and Design Innovation to gain a better understanding of the business side of things. Upon finishing my masters, I founded Atypical Cosmetics, a skincare customisation company that uses artificial intelligence, natural ingredients and real user data to allow users to co-create customised skincare that suits their needs, lifestyle and allergies. During the last few months, I have been working on designing and developing our products and service and I am currently planning a crowdfunding campaign that will launch in 2020.

What was the inspiration behind Atypical Cosmetics?
A few years ago, my skin reacted badly to a product that I was using and I had to find skincare which was free of fragrances, alcohol and a list of other ingredients which I needed to avoid. Avoiding these ingredients proved to be extremely difficult; looking through every product’s ingredient list was tedious and time-consuming, and the same ingredients often had multiple different names. I realised that there was no way of quickly and easily finding products with ingredients that suited my skin, and speaking to other people, I realised that this was a wider issue faced not only by people with allergies but also by people seeking skincare products with ingredients that are natural, organic or vegan. Thus the idea for customisable skincare was born; it lived on a sticky note on my bedroom wall for a few years before I finally decided to pursue the idea and develop it into a business.

What are the core values behind the brand?
Inclusivity, sustainability and creativity are our three core values. Traditional skincare companies still use a ‘one-sizefits-all’ approach to skincare that makes it difficult for people to find products that suit their exact skin needs. We recognise that every person is unique and are passionate about integrating modern technology with sustainable materials and natural ingredients to create a new generation of smart, customisable skincare. Our first product, a customisable moisturizing face oil, is natural, vegan and palm oil free. It is packaged in glass bottles and shipped in boxes made from 90% recycled materials. We are working on integrating circular economy services into Atypical Cosmetics as it grows.

What are your ambitions for the company?
At Atypical Cosmetics, we want to create products that celebrate our individuality. We’re all atypical and that’s a good thing. The beauty industry can sometimes seem obsessed with conformity, and I hope that Atypical Cosmetics will help raise awareness of the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way.

What advice would you give a student wanting to get a product to market?
~Getting a product to market can seem like a mammoth task and my first piece of advice would be to just go for it and start developing. Speak to people, test your ideas, and collaborate with others to determine that what you’re creating addresses a market need or opportunity and do this continuously and iteratively throughout the development process. Take on the challenges as they come, and there will be many, but try not to get too caught up with the minor details. Dream big but start small and don’t be afraid of change.